Entering a new market is a risky endeavour but can reap significant rewards. Entering a foreign market holds an even greater risk that is further compounded by cultural differences and possible language barriers.
There are generally three golden rules to any new venture:
- Know the market.
- Know the target audience.
- Know the product.
All three work in sync, impact one another and form the basis of building a strategy that converts your audience into a customer. This article focuses on our area of expertise – language and culture. It might seem like a small detail but when language is overlooked it can result in an adverse marketing strategy that can lead to a product being withdrawn from sale in a specific country.
Take Coca Cola for, example. Translated into Chinese the brand name literally means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. The company was forced to retract the product and identify a ‘more appropriate’ name. They eventually found the phonetic equivalent, “kekoukele”, meaning “happiness in the mouth” in Chinese. This demonstrates that even the smallest oversight can significantly affect the translation quality and final message.
What is the difference between Localisation and Translation?
When it comes to speaking to a foreign audience, there are two options: translation and localisation. The first is relatively straight forward. Translators take a text in one language and convert it to its closest equivalent in another. When the two texts are aimed at culturally similar countries or are very basic this will often be enough. Localisation is used to translate not only words, but meanings and ideas. This process takes a concept and makes it relevant to the intended market. It covers not just text, but expressions, colours, visual cues and even fonts.
Localisation generally requires a higher investment and can be the more time consuming option. However this method yields a higher return on investment. Despite that even big companies, like Coca Cola, can overlook it and opt for a simple translation. There are a few myths around localisation that make even seasoned marketers overlook its importance.
Myth 1: Localisation is just a fancy name for translation
This is the main reason why many companies choose translation over localisation.
The difference between translation and localisation is that the latter takes a piece of content and puts it into the context of a culture whereas the former merely converts the meaning of a word without any consideration of the context.
Lets take one of the old classics – the McCain chips ad from the 90’s. In it we see a little girl ponder the existential question of which one she loves more: Daddy or chips? When it aired it brought a smile to everyone’s face, because there was a connection, an understanding. McCain had used the British fish and chips culture as an inspiration.
Imagine if they had decided to air that same advert in Spain. A translator would do a fantastic job of translating the words into Spanish, but a localisation expert would tell McCain that the concept doesn’t transfer. Spain lacks that same love for chips that would form a bond of understanding between the viewer and the company.
Localisation is a vital component of every international marketing strategy. These days marketing is not just about a product, it is about selling an idea to an individual. Ideas can fall flat when they are taken out of their cultural context. Localisation experts have the knowledge to save them by putting them in a local context.
Myth 2: English speaking markets are more profitable
The USA has the biggest economy in the world. In 2015 the country held 24.3% of the world’s GDP. China, the second biggest economy, was far behind with 14.8%. Right now English speaking markets hold the lead, but others are also worth considering. Out of the top 10 economies only 3 are English speaking – the USA (1), the UK (5) and Canada (10). The fastest growing economies, China and India, do not speak English as their native language. Those markets are already lucrative enough for big companies like Google to try and enter despite the complicated geo-political situation. By entering before any of their competitors, a company has the opportunity to secure a huge market.
Common Sense Advisory made an even stronger case for localisation recently. They surveyed 2,430 consumers in 8 countries and discovered that:
- 72.1% of consumers spend the majority of their time on websites in their own language
- 72.4% of respondents are more likely to buy a product if they can find information in their language
- 56,2% said that language matters more than price
Myth 3: Everyone speaks English, so why do it
Did you know that only 25.5% of internet users speak English? InternetWorldStats has reported this in a February, 2017 research. Combining this data with the Common Sense Advisory research it becomes clear that by choosing to focus on English speaking markets a company can significantly limit their sales. Once there is nowhere to grow within a market foreign customers could become more appealing.
Myth 4: I don’t need to localise packaging and labels
Translating, instead of localising, packaging and labels might seem like a good idea to cut costs and invest funds in other areas. Packaging and labels is where most of the translation blunders occur. Due to the minimal word count, a lot of companies tend to run the text through an automated online translation tool. Chinese companies regularly deliver comedic gold in English, but the same is true for Western companies in China.
Labels and packaging might seem like a relatively simple and straightforward content to translate. Companies often forget you only ‘get one chance at a first impression’ and this is no less important when launching a new product into an international market. Errors in the description of a product, ingredients or directions will not instil confidence in the consumer to change from their existing supplier or to even try your product.
When it comes to entering a foreign market there is no single detail that is less important than another. More often than not, a brand needs to be re-built from the ground up. This can only be done if it understands and speaks to its new audience in a language that they understand.
Word360 work with global brands to research new markets and how to get the most out of their marketing campaigns. Speak to our marketing team to learn more.